• Pacific Rim Area

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United States Of America

Population: 298,444,215
Background
     Britain's American colonies broke with the mother country in 1776 and were recognized as the new nation of the United States of America following the Treaty of Paris in 1783. During the 19th and 20th centuries, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. The two most traumatic experiences in the nation's history were the Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. Buoyed by victories in World Wars I and II and the end of the Cold War in 1991, the US remains the world's most powerful
nation state. The economy is marked by steady growth, low unemployment and inflation, and rapid advances in technology.

 

Economy - Overview

     The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $43,500. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state overnments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Western Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II..

Argentina

  Background
   In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio Plata declared their independence from Spain. Eventually, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay went their own way, but the area that remained became Argentina. The country's population and culture were subsequently heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, but most particularly Italy and Spain, which provided the largest percentage of newcomers from 1860 to 1930. Up until about the mid-20th century, much of Argentina's history was dominated by periods of internal political conflict
between Federalists and Unitarians and between civilian and military factions.
     After World War II, an era of Peronist authoritarian rule and interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983, and has persisted despite numerous challenges, the most formidable of which was a severe economic crisis in 2001-02 that led to violent public protests and the resignation of several interim presidents. The economy has since recovered strongly since bottoming out in 2002. The government renegotiated its public debt in 2005 and paid off its remaining obligations to the IMF in early 2006.

Economy - Overview
Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, an export-oriented agricultural sector, and a diversified industrial base. Although one of the world's wealthiest countries 100 years ago, Argentina suffered during most of the twentieth century from recurring economic crises, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt, and capital flight. Beginning in 1998, with external debt equivalent to more than 400 percent of annual exports, economic growth slowed and ultimately fell into a full-blown depression, as investors' fears grew in the wake of Russia's debt default, political discord caused by then-President Carlos MENEM's unpopular efforts to run for a constitutionally prohibited third term, and Brazil's devaluation.
      The government of Fernando DE LA RUA, elected President in late 1999, tried several measures to cut the fiscal deficit and instill confidence and received large IMF credit facilities, but nothing worked to revive the economy. Depositors began withdrawing money from the banks in late 2001, and the government responded with strict limits on withdrawals.
    When street protests turned deadly, DE LA RUA was forced to resign in December 2001. Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez SAA declared a default, the largest in history, on Argentina's foreign debt, but he stepped down only a few days later when he failed to garner political support from the country's governors. Eduardo DUHALDE became President in January 2002 and announced an end to the peso's decade-long 1-to-1 peg to the US dollar

Brunei

Population: 379,444
Nationality:
noun: Bruneian(s)
adjective: Bruneian

Ethnic groups: Malay 67%, Chinese 15%, indigenous 6%, other 12%
Religions: Muslim (official) 67%, Buddhist 13%, Christian 10%, indigenous beliefs and other 10%
Languages: Malay (official), English, Chinese

Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 93.9%
male: 96.3%
female: 91.4% (2002)

Background
    The Sultanate of Brunei's influence peaked between the 15th and 17th centuries when its control extended over coastal areas of northwest Borneo and the southern Philippines. Brunei subsequently entered a period of decline brought on by internal strife over royal succession, colonial expansion of European powers, and piracy. In 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate; independence was achieved in 1984. The same family has ruled Brunei for over six centuries. Brunei benefits from extensive petroleum and natural gas fields, the source of one of the highest per capita GDPs in the developing world.

Economy - Overview
   This small, well-to-do economy encompasses a mixture of foreign and domestic entrepreneurship, government regulation, welfare measures, and village tradition. Crude oil and natural gas production account for nearly half of GDP and more than 90% of government revenues. Per capita GDP is far above most other Third World countries, and substantial income from overseas investment supplements income from domestic production. The government provides for all medical services and free education through the university level and subsidizes rice and housing. Brunei's leaders are concerned that steadily increased integration in the world economy will undermine internal social cohesion. Plans for the future include upgrading the labor force, reducing unemployment, strengthening the banking and tourist sectors, and, in general, further widening the economic base beyond oil and gas.

Cambodia

Population:13,881,427

Background
      Most Cambodians consider themselves to be Khmers, descendants of the Angkor Empire that extended over much of Southeast Asia and reached its zenith between the 10th and 13th centuries. Attacks by the Thai and Cham (from present-day Vietnam) weakened the empire ushering in a long period of decline. The king placed the country under French protection in 1863. Cambodia became part of French Indochina in 1887. Following Japanese occupation in World War II, Cambodia gained full independence from France in 1953. In April 1975, after a five-year struggle, Communist Khmer Rouge forces captured Phnom Penh and evacuated all cities and towns. At least 1.5 million Cambodians died from execution, forced hardships, or starvation during the Khmer Rouge regime under POL POT.
      A December 1978 Vietnamese invasion drove the Khmer Rouge into the countryside, began a 10-year Vietnamese occupation, and touched off almost 13 years of civil war. The 1991 Paris Peace Accords mandated democratic elections and a ceasefire, which was not fully respected by the Khmer Rouge. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normalcy under a coalition government. Factional fighting in 1997 ended the first coalition government, but a second round of national elections in 1998 led to the formation of another coalition government and renewed political stability.  The remaining elements of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in early 1999. Some of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders are awaiting trial by a UN-sponsored tribunal for crimes against humanity. Elections in July 2003 were relatively peaceful, but it took one year of negotiations between contending political parties before a coalition government was formed.

Economy - Overview

      In 1999, the first full year of peace in 30 years, the government made progress on economic reforms. The US and Cambodia signed a Bilateral Textile Agreement, which gave Cambodia a guaranteed quota of US textile imports and established a bonus for improving working conditions and enforcing Cambodian labor laws and international labor standards in the industry. From 2001 to 2004, the economy grew at an average rate of 6.4%, driven largely by an expansion in the garment sector and tourism. With the January 2005 expiration of a WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, Cambodia-based textile producers were forced to compete directly with lower-priced producing countries such as China and India. Better-than-expected garment sector performance led to about 6% growth per year in 2005-06.
    Faced with the possibility that its vibrant garment industry, with more than 200,000 jobs, could be in serious danger, the Cambodian government has committed itself to a policy of continued support for high labor standards in an attempt to maintain favor with buyers. The tourism industry continues to grow rapidly, with foreign visitors surpassing 1 million for per year beginning in 2005. In 2005, exploitable oil and natural gas deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial waters, representing a new revenue stream for the government once commercial extraction begins in the coming years.

Canada

Population: 33,098,932

Background
       A land of vast distances and rich natural resources, Canada became a self-governing dominion in 1867 while retaining ties to the British crown. Economically and technologically the nation has developed in parallel with the US, its neighbor to the south across an unfortified border. Canada faces the political challenges of meeting public demands for quality improvements in health care and education services, as well as responding to separatist concerns in predominantly francophone Quebec. Canada also aims to develop its diverse energy resources while maintaining its commitment to the environment.       

Economy - Overview
     As an affluent, high-tech industrial society in the trillion dollar class, Canada resembles the US in its market-oriented economic system, pattern of production, and affluent living standards. Since World War II, the impressive growth of the manufacturing, mining, and service sectors has transformed the nation from a largely rural economy into one primarily industrial and urban. The 1989 US-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (which includes Mexico) touched off a dramatic increase in trade and economic integration with the US. Given its great natural resources, skilled labor force, and modern capital plant, Canada enjoys solid economic prospects. Top-notch fiscal management has produced consecutive balanced budgets since 1997, although public debate continues over how to manage the rising cost of the publicly funded healthcare system. Exports account for roughly a third of GDP. Canada enjoys a substantial trade surplus with its principal trading partner, the US, which absorbs about 85% of Canadian exports. Canada is the US' largest foreign supplier of energy, including oil, gas, uranium, and electric power.

Chile

Population: 16,134,219
Background

      Prior to the coming of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while Araucanian Indians inhabited central and southern Chile; the latter were not completely subjugated by Spain until the early 1880s. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879-84), Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its present northern lands. A three-year-old Marxist government of Salvador ALLENDE was overthrown in 1973 by a dictatorial military regime led by Augusto PINOCHET, who ruled until a freely elected president was installed in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady growth and have helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles befitting its status as a stable, democratic nation.

Economy - Overview
      Chile has a market-oriented economy characterized by a high level of foreign trade. During the early 1990s, Chile's reputation as a role model for economic reform was strengthened when the democratic  government of Patricio AYLWIN - which took over from the military in 1990 - deepened the economic reform initiated by the military government. Growth in real GDP averaged 8% during 1991-97, but fell to half that level in 1998 because of tight monetary policies implemented to keep the current account deficit in check and because of lower export earnings - the latter a product of the global financial crisis.
    A severe drought exacerbated the recession in 1999, reducing crop yields and causing hydroelectric shortfalls and electricity rationing, and Chile experienced negative economic growth for the first time in more than 15 years. Despite the effects of the recession, Chile maintained its 
reputation for strong financial institutions and sound policy that have given it the strongest sovereign bond rating in South America. By the end of 1999, exports and economic activity had begun to recover, and growth rebounded to 4.2% in 2000. Growth fell back to 3.1% in 2001 and 2.1% in 2002, largely due to lackluster global growth and the devaluation of the Argentine peso.

China

Population: 1,313,973,713
Background

      For centuries China stood as a leading civilization, outpacing the rest of the world in the arts and sciences, but in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the country was beset by civil unrest, major famines, military defeats, and foreign occupation. After World War II, the Communists under MAO Zedong established an autocratic socialist system that, while ensuring China's sovereignty, imposed strict controls over everyday life and cost the lives of tens of millions of people. After 1978, his successor DENG Xiaoping and other leaders focused on market-oriented economic development and by 2000 output had quadrupled. For much of the population, living standards have improved dramatically and the room for personal choice has expanded, yet political controls remain tight.

Economy - Overview
      China's economy during the last quarter century has changed from a centrally planned system that was largely closed to international trade to a more market-oriented economy that has a rapidly growing private sector and is a major player in the global economy. Reforms started in the late 1970s with the phasing out of collectivized agriculture, and expanded to include the gradual liberalization of prices, fiscal decentralization, increased autonomy for state enterprises, the foundation of a diversified banking system, the development of stock markets, the rapid growth of the non-state sector, and the opening to foreign trade and investment.
       China has generally implemented reforms in a gradualist or piecemeal fashion, including the sale of equity in China's largest state banks to foreign investors and refinements in foreign exchange and bond markets in 2005. The restructuring of the economy and resulting efficiency gains have contributed to a more than tenfold increase in GDP since 1978. Measured on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China in 2006 stood as the second-largest economy in the world after the US, although in per capita terms the country is still lower middle-income and 130 million Chinese fall below international poverty lines.

Costa Rica

Population: 4,075,261
Background

    Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including: disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country's democratic development. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.

Economy - Overview
        Costa Rica's basically stable economy depends on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports. Poverty has been substantially reduced over the past 15 years, and a strong social safety net has been put into place. Foreign investors remain attracted by the country's political stability and high education levels, and tourism continues to bring in foreign exchange. The government continues to grapple with its large internal and external deficits and sizable internal debt. The reduction of inflation remains a difficult problem because of rising import prices, labor market rigidities, and fiscal deficits. The country also needs to reform its tax system and its pattern of public expenditure. The current administration has made it a priority to pass the necessary reforms to implement the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). CAFTA implementation would result in an improved investment climate.

Ecuador

Population: 13,547,510
Background
       What is now Ecuador formed part of the northern Inca Empire until the Spanish conquest in 1533. Quito became a seat of Spanish colonial government in 1563 and part of the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717. The territories of the Viceroyalty - New Granada (Colombia), Venezuela, and Quito - gained their independence by 1819 and formed a federation known as Gran Colombia. When Quito withdrew in 1830, the traditional name was changed in favor of the "Republic of the Equator." Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995  was resolved in 1999. Although Ecuador marked 25 years of civilian governance in 2004, the period has been marred by political instability. Protests in Quito have contributed to the mid-term ouster of Ecuador's last three democratically elected Presidents.

 

Economy - Overview
Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources, which have accounted for 40% of the country's export earnings and one-third of central government budget revenues in recent years. Consequently, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. In the late 1990s, Ecuador suffered its worst economic crisis, with natural disasters and sharp declines in world petroleum prices driving Ecuador's economy into free fall in 1999. Real GDP contracted by more than 6%, with poverty worsening significantly. The banking system also collapsed, and Ecuador defaulted on its external debt later that year.

Fiji

Population: 905,949
Background
       Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE.
      Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president. In January 2007, BAINIMARAMA was appointed interim prime minister.
Economy - Overview
      Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry - with 300,000 to 400,000 tourists annually - are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji's sugar has special access to European Union markets, but will be harmed by the EU's decision to cut sugar subsidies. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji's tourism industry was damaged by the 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time. Long-term problems include low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the government's ability to manage its budget. Overseas remittances from Fijians working in Kuwait and Iraq have increased significantly.

Guam

Population: 905,949
Background
      Fiji became independent in 1970, after nearly a century as a British colony. Democratic rule was interrupted by two military coups in 1987, caused by concern over a government perceived as dominated by the Indian community (descendants of contract laborers brought to the islands by the British in the 19th century). The coups and a 1990 constitution that cemented native Melanesian control of Fiji, led to heavy Indian emigration; the population loss resulted in economic difficulties, but ensured that Melanesians became the majority. A new constitution enacted in 1997 was more equitable. Free and peaceful elections in 1999 resulted in a government led by an Indo-Fijian, but a civilian-led coup in May 2000 ushered in a prolonged period of political turmoil. Parliamentary elections held in August 2001 provided Fiji with a democratically elected government led by Prime Minister Laisenia QARASE. Re-elected in May 2006, QARASE was ousted in a December 2006 military coup led by Commodore Voreqe BAINIMARAMA, who initially appointed himself acting president. In January 2007, BAINIMARAMA was appointed interim prime minister.
Economy - Overview
    Fiji, endowed with forest, mineral, and fish resources, is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though still with a large subsistence sector. Sugar exports, remittances from Fijians working abroad, and a growing tourist industry - with 300,000 to 400,000 tourists annually - are the major sources of foreign exchange. Fiji's sugar has special access to European Union markets, but will be harmed by the EU's decision to cut sugar subsidies. Sugar processing makes up one-third of industrial activity but is not efficient. Fiji's tourism industry was damaged by the 2006 coup and is facing an uncertain recovery time. Long-term problems include low investment, uncertain land ownership rights, and the government's ability to manage its budget. Overseas remittances from Fijians working in Kuwait and Iraq have increased significantly.

Honk Kong

Population: 6,940,432
Background
     Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984,
Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.
Economy - Overview
      Hong Kong has a free market economy highly dependent on international trade. The territory has become more closely linked to mainland China over the past few years. Even before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese administration on 1 July 1997, it had extensive trade and investment ties with China. Hong Kong's service industry over the past decade has grown rapidly as its manufacturing industry has moved to the mainland. Hong Kong also has stepped up its efforts to gain approval to offer more mainland financial services in a bid to remain competitive with China's growing financial centers. Hong Kong's natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. Gross imports and exports (i.e., including reexports to and from third countries) each exceed GDP in dollar value. Per capita GDP exceeds that of the four big economies of Western Europe.

Indonesia

Population:  245,452,739
Background
      The Dutch began to colonize Indonesia in the early 17th century; the islands were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. Indonesia declared its independence after Japan's surrender, but it required four years of intermittent negotiations, recurring hostilities, and UN mediation before the Netherlands agreed to relinquish its colony. Indonesia is the world's largest archipelagic state and home to the world's largest Muslim population. Current issues include: alleviating poverty, preventing terrorism, consolidating democracy after four decades of
authoritarianism, implementing financial sector reforms, stemming corruption, and holding the military and police accountable for human rights violations.
    
Indonesia was the nation worst hit by the December 2004 tsunami, which particularly affected Aceh province causing over 100,000 deaths and over $4 billion in damage. An additional earthquake in March 2005 created heavy destruction on the island of Nias. Reconstruction in these areas may take up to a decade. In 2005, Indonesia reached a historic peace agreement with armed separatists in Aceh, but it continues to face a low intensity separatist guerilla movement in Papua.

 

Economy - Overview

       Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, has struggled to overcome the Asian financial crisis, and still grapples with high poverty and unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, endemic corruption, a fragile banking sector, a poor investment climate, and unequal resource distribution among regions. The country continues the slow work of rebuilding from the devastating December 2004 tsunami and from an earthquake in central Java in May 2006 that caused over $3 billion in damage and losses. Declining oil production and lack of new exploration investment turned Indonesia into a net oil importer in 2004. The cost of subsidizing domestic fuel placed increasing strain on the budget in 2005, and combined with indecisive monetary policy, contributed to a run on the currency in August, prompting the government to enact a 126% average fuel price hike in October. The resulting inflation and interest rate hikes dampened growth through mid-2006, while large increases in rice prices pushed millions  more people under the national poverty line.

Japan

Population: 6,940,432
Background
     Occupied by the UK in 1841, Hong Kong was formally ceded by China the following year; various adjacent lands were added later in the 19th century. Pursuant to an agreement signed by China and the UK on 19 December 1984, Hong Kong became the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of China on 1 July 1997. In this agreement, China has promised that, under its "one country, two systems" formula, China's socialist economic system will not be imposed on Hong Kong and that Hong Kong will enjoy a high degree of autonomy in all matters except foreign and defense affairs for the next 50 years.

 

Economy - Overview
      Hong Kong has a free market economy highly dependent on international trade. The territory has become more closely linked to mainland China over the past few years. Even before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese administration on 1 July 1997, it had extensive trade and investment ties with China. Hong Kong's service industry over the past decade has grown rapidly as its manufacturing industry has moved to the mainland. Hong Kong also has stepped up its efforts to gain approval to offer more mainland financial services in a bid to remain competitive with China's growing financial centers. Hong Kong's natural resources are limited, and food and raw materials must be imported. Gross imports and exports (i.e., including reexports to and from third countries) each exceed GDP in dollar value. Per capita GDP exceeds that of the four big economies of Western Europe.

Laos

Population: 6,368,481
Background
     Modern-day Laos has its roots in the ancient Lao kingdom of Lan Xang, established in the 14th Century under King FA NGUM. For three hundred years Lan Xang included large parts of present-day Cambodia and Thailand, as well as all of what is now Laos. After centuries of gradual decline, Laos came under the control of Siam (Thailand) from the late 18th century until the late 19th century when it became part of French Indochina. The Franco-Siamese Treaty of 1907 defined the current Lao border with Thailand. In 1975, the Communist Pathet Lao took control of the government ending a six-century-old monarchy and instituting a strict socialist regime closely aligned to Vietnam. A gradual return to private enterprise and the liberalization of foreign investment laws began in 1986. Laos became a member of ASEAN in 1997.

 

Economy - Overview
      The government of Laos, one of the few remaining official Communist states, began decentralizing control and encouraging private enterprise in 1986. The results, starting from an extremely low base, were striking - growth averaged 6% per year in 1988-2006 except during the short-lived drop caused by the Asian financial crisis beginning in 1997. Despite this high growth rate, Laos remains a country with a primitive infrastructure. It has no railroads, a rudimentary road system, and limited external and internal telecommunications, though the government is sponsoring major improvements in the road system with possible support from Japan. Electricity is available in only a few urban areas. Subsistence agriculture, dominated by rice, accounts for about half of GDP and provides 80% of total employment. The economy will continue to benefit from aid by the IMF and other international sources and from new foreign investment in hydropower and mining.

Malaysia

Population:   24,385,858
Background
     During the late 18th and 19th centuries, Great Britain established colonies and protectorates in the area of current Malaysia; these were occupied by Japan from 1942 to 1945. In 1948, the British-ruled territories on the Malay Peninsula formed the Federation of Malaya, which became independent in 1957. Malaysia was formed in 1963 when the former British colonies of Singapore and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo joined the Federation. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965. During the 22-year term of Prime Minister MAHATHIR bin Mohamad (1981-2003), Malaysia was successful in diversifying its economy from dependence on exports of raw materials, to expansion in manufacturing, services, and tourism.

 

Economy - Overview
      Malaysia, a middle-income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth was almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics. As a result, Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the information technology (IT) sector in 2001 and 2002. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.5% because of an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package equal to US $1.9 billion mitigated the worst of the recession, and the economy rebounded in 2002 with a 4.1% increase.
     The economy grew 4.9% in 2003, notwithstanding a difficult first half, when external pressures from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Iraq War led to caution in the business community. Growth topped 7% in 2004 and 5% per year in 2005-06. As an oil and gas exporter, Malaysia has profited from higher world energy prices, although the rising cost  of domestic gasoline and diesel fuel forced Kuala Lumpur to reduce government subsidies, contributing to higher inflation. Malaysia "unpegged" the ringgit from the US dollar in 2005 and the currency appreciated 6% against the dollar in 2006. Healthy foreign exchange reserves and a small external debt greatly reduce the risk that Malaysia will experience a financial crisis over the near term similar to the one in 1997. The economy remains dependent on continued growth in the US, China, and Japan - top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment

Marshall Islands

Population:  60,422
Background
     After almost four decades under US administration as the easternmost part of the UN Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, the Marshall Islands attained independence in 1986 under a Compact of Free Association. Compensation claims continue as a result of US nuclear testing on some of the atolls between 1947 and 1962. The Marshall Islands hosts the US Army Kwajalein Atoll (USAKA) Reagan Missile Test Site, a key installation in the US missile defense network.

 

Economy - Overview
    US Government assistance is the mainstay of this tiny island economy. Agricultural production, primarily subsistence, is concentrated on small farms; the most important commercial crops are coconuts and breadfruit. Small-scale industry is limited to handicrafts, tuna processing, and copra. The tourist industry, now a small source of foreign exchange employing less than 10% of the labor force, remains the best hope for future added income. The islands have few natural resources, and imports far exceed exports. Under the terms of the Amended Compact of Free Association, the US will provide millions of dollars per year to the Marshall Islands (RMI) through 2023, at which time a Trust Fund made up of US and RMI contributions will begin perpetual annual payouts. Government downsizing, drought, a drop in construction, the decline in tourism, and less income from the renewal of fishing vessel licenses have held GDP growth to an average of 1% over the past decade.

Mexico

Population:   107,449,525
Background
     The site of advanced Amerindian civilizations, Mexico came under Spanish rule for three centuries before achieving independence early in the 19th century. A  devaluation of the peso in late 1994 threw Mexico into economic turmoil, triggering the worst recession in over half a century. The nation continues to make an impressive recovery. Ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages, underemployment for a large segment of the population, inequitable income distribution, and few advancement opportunities for the largely Amerindian population in the impoverished southern states. Elections held in July 2000 marked the first time since the 1910 Mexican Revolution that the opposition defeated the party in government, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Vicente FOX of the National Action Party (PAN) was sworn in on 1 December 2000 as the first chief executive elected in free and fair elections.

 

Economy - Overview

   Mexico has a free market economy that recently entered the trillion dollar class. It contains a mixture of modern and outmoded industry and agriculture, increasingly dominated by the private sector. Recent administrations have expanded competition in seaports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution, and airports. Per capita income is one-fourth that of the US; income distribution remains highly unequal. Trade with the US and Canada has tripled since the implementation of NAFTA in 1994. Mexico has 12 free trade agreements with over 40 countries including, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, the European Free Trade Area, and Japan, putting more than 90% of trade under free trade agreements. The new Felipe CALDERON administration that took office in December 2006 faces many of the same challenges that former President FOX tried to tackle, including the need to upgrade infrastructure, modernize the tax system and labor laws, and allow private investment in the energy sector. CALDERON has stated that his top priorities include reducing poverty and creating jobs. The success of his economic agenda will depend on his ability to garner support from the opposition.

New Zealand

Population:  4,076,140
Background
   The Polynesian Maori reached New Zealand in about A.D. 800. In 1840, their chieftains entered into a compact with Britain, the Treaty of Waitangi, in which they ceded sovereignty to Queen Victoria while retaining territorial rights. In that same year, the British began the first organized colonial settlement. A series of land wars between 1843 and 1872 ended with the defeat of the native peoples. The British colony of New Zealand became an independent dominion in 1907 and supported the UK militarily in both World Wars. New Zealand's full participation in a number of defense alliances lapsed by the 1980s. In recent years, the government has sought to address longstanding Maori grievances.

Economy - Overview
    Over the past 20 years the government has transformed New Zealand from an agrarian economy dependent on concessionary British market access to a more industrialized, free market economy that can compete globally. This dynamic growth has boosted real incomes (but left behind many at the bottom of the ladder), broadened and deepened the technological capabilities of the industrial sector, and contained inflationary pressures. Per capita income has risen for eight consecutive years and was more than $25,500 in 2006 in purchasing power parity terms. Consumer and government spending have driven growth in recent years, and exports picked up in 2006 after struggling for several years. Exports are equal to about 28% of GDP, down from 33 percent of GDP in 2001. Thus far the economy has been resilient, and the Labor Government promises that expenditures on health, education, and pensions will increase proportionately to output.

Panama

Population:   3,191,319
Background
     Explored and settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, Panama broke with Spain in 1821 and joined a union of Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador - named the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the latter dissolved in 1830, Panama remained part of Colombia. With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. In 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of the century.
      Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the subsequent decades. With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989. The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which is to begin in 2007 and could double the Canal's capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
Economy - Overview
      Panama's dollarised economy rests primarily on a well-developed services sector that accounts for three-fourths of GDP. Services include operating the Panama Canal, banking, the Colon Free Zone, insurance, container ports, flagship registry, and tourism. A slump in the Colon Free Zone and agricultural exports, the global slowdown, and the withdrawal of US military forces held back economic growth in 2000-03; growth picked up in 2004-06 led by export-oriented services and a construction boom stimulated by tax incentives. The government has implemented tax reforms, as well as social security reforms, and backs regional trade agreements and development of tourism.
Unemployment remains high. In October 2006, voters passed a referendum to expand the Panama Canal to accommodate ships that are now too large to cross the transoceanic crossway. Not a CAFTA signatory, Panama in December 2006 independently negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States, which, when implemented, will help promote the country's economic growth

Papua New Guinea

Population:   5,670,544
Background
      The eastern half of the island of New Guinea - second largest in the world - was divided between Germany (north) and the UK (south) in 1885. The latter area was transferred to Australia in 1902, which occupied the northern portion during World War I and continued to administer the combined areas until independence in 1975. A nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville ended in 1997 after claiming some 20,000 lives.

 

Economy - Overview
      Papua New Guinea is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been hampered by rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure. Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for 85% of the population. Mineral deposits, including oil, copper, and gold, account for nearly two-thirds of export earnings. The economy has improved over the past three years because of high commodity prices following a prolonged period of instability. The government of Prime Minister SOMARE has expended much of its energy remaining in power and should be the first government in decades to serve a full five-year term. The government has also brought stability to the national budget thus far, largely through expenditure control. Numerous challenges still face the government including regaining investor confidence, restoring integrity to state institutions, promoting economic efficiency by privatizing moribund state institutions, and balancing relations with Australia, the former colonial ruler. Other socio-cultural challenges could upend the economy including a worsening HIV/Aids epidemic and chronic law and order and land tenure issues. Australia annually supplies $240 million in aid, which accounts for nearly 20% of the national budget.

Peru

Population:  28,302,603
Background

       Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent Andean civilizations, most notably that of the Incas whose empire was captured by the Spanish conquistadors in 1533. Peruvian independence was declared in 1821, and remaining Spanish forces defeated in 1824. After a dozen years of military rule, Peru returned to democratic leadership in 1980, but experienced economic problems and the growth of a violent insurgency. President Alberto FUJIMORI's election in 1990 ushered in a decade that saw a dramatic turnaround in the economy and significant progress in curtailing guerrilla activity. Nevertheless, the president's increasing reliance on authoritarian measures and an economic slump in the late 1990s generated mounting dissatisfaction with his regime, which led to his ouster in 2000. A caretaker government oversaw new elections in the spring of 2001, which ushered in Alejandro TOLEDO as the new head of government - Peru's first democratically elected president of Native American ethnicity. The presidential election of 2006 saw the return of Alan GARCIA who, after a disappointing presidential term from 1985 to 1990, returned to the presidency with promises to improve social conditions and maintain fiscal responsibility. 

Economy - overview 
      Peru's economy reflects its varied geography - an arid coastal region, the Andes further inland, and tropical lands bordering Colombia and Brazil. Abundant mineral resources are found in the mountainous areas, and Peru's coastal waters provide excellent fishing grounds. However, overdependence on minerals and metals subjects the economy to fluctuations in world prices, and a lack of infrastructure deters trade and investment. After several years of inconsistent economic performance, the Peruvian economy grew by more than 4 percent per year during the period 2002-2006, with a stable exchange rate and low inflation. Risk premiums on Peruvian bonds on secondary markets reached historically low levels in late 2004, reflecting investor optimism regarding the government's prudent fiscal policies and openness to trade and investment. Despite the strong macroeconomic performance, underemployment and poverty have stayed persistently high.

Philippines

Population: 89,468,677
Background

      The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel QUEZON was elected President and was tasked with preparing the country for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell under Japanese occupation during WWII, and US forces and Filipinos fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the Philippines attained their independence. The 20-year rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986, when a widespread popular rebellion forced him into exile and installed Corazon AQUINO as president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which prevented a return to full political stability and economic development. Fidel RAMOS was elected president in 1992 and his administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands. Joseph ESTRADA was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his vicepresident, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, in January 2001 after ESTRADA's stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and widespread demonstrations led to his ouster. MACAPAGAL-ARROYO was elected to a six-year term in May 2004. The Philippine Government faces threats from an armed Communist insurgency and from Muslim separatists in the south, as well as from impeachment attempts by political elites and civil groups unhappy with the current
administration.

Economy - Overview
       The Philippines was less severely affected by the Asian financial crisis of 1998 than its neighbors, aided in part by its high level of annual remittances from overseas workers, and no sustained runup in asset prices or foreign borrowing prior to the crisis. From a 0.6% decline in 1998, GDP expanded by 2.4% in 1999, and 4.4% in 2000, but slowed to 3.2% in 2001 in the context of a global economic slowdown, an export slump, and political and security concerns. GDP growth accelerated to about 5% between 2002 and 2006 reflecting the continued resilience of the service sector, and improved exports and agricultural output. Nonetheless, it will take a higher, sustained growth path to make appreciable progress in the alleviation of poverty given the Philippines' high annual population growth rate and unequal distribution of income.

Singapore

Population: 4,492,150

Background
   Singapore was founded as a British trading colony in 1819. It joined the Malaysian Federation in 1963 but separated two years later and became independent. Singapore subsequently became one of the world's most prosperous countries with strong international trading links (its port is one of the world's busiest in terms of tonnage handled) and with per capita GDP equal to that of the leading nations of Western Europe.

Economy - Overview
  Singapore, a highly-developed and successful free-market economy, enjoys a remarkably open and corruption-free environment, stable prices, and a per capita GDP equal to that of the four largest West European countries. The economy depends heavily on exports, particularly in consumer electronics and information technology products. It was hard hit in 2001-03 by the global recession, by the slump in the technology sector, and by an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, which curbed tourism and consumer spending. Fiscal stimulus, low interest rates, a surge in exports, and internal flexibility led to vigorous growth in 2004-06, with real GDP growth averaging 7% annually. The government hopes to establish a new growth path that will be less vulnerable to the global demand cycle for information technology products - it has attracted major investments in pharmaceuticals and medical technology production - and will continue efforts to establish Singapore as Southeast Asia's financial and high-tech hub.

South Korea

Population: 48,846,823
Background

   An independent Korean state or collection of states has existed almost continuously for several millennia. Between its initial unification in the 7th century - from three predecessor Korean states - until the 20th century, Korea existed as a single independent country. In 1905, following the Russo-Japanese War, Korea became a protectorate of imperial Japan, and in 1910 it was annexed as a colony. Korea regained its independence following Japan's surrender to the United States in 1945. After World War II, a Republic of Korea (ROK) was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula while a Communist-style government was installed in the north (the DPRK). During the Korean War (1950-53), US troops and UN forces fought alongside soldiers from the ROK to defend South Korea from DPRK attacks supported by China and the Soviet Union. An armistice was signed in 1953, splitting the peninsula along a demilitarized zone at about the 38th parallel.               Thereafter, South Korea achieved rapid economic growth with per capita income rising to roughly 14 times the level of North Korea. In 1993, KIM Yo'ng-sam became South Korea's first civilian president following 32 years of military rule. South Korea today is a fully functioning modern democracy. In June 2000, a historic first North-South summit took place between the South's President KIM Tae-chung and the North's leader KIM Jong Il.

Economy - Overview
      Since the 1960s, South Korea has achieved an incredible record of growth and integration into the high-tech modern world economy. Four decades ago, GDP per capita was comparable with levels in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia. In 2004,  outh Korea joined the trillion dollar club of world economies. Today its GDP per capita is equal to the lesser economies of the EU. This success was achieved by a system of close government/business ties, including directed credit, import restrictions, sponsorship of specific industries, and a strong labor effort. The government promoted the import of raw materials and echnology at the expense of consumer goods and encouraged savings and investment over consumption. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-99 exposed longstanding weaknesses in South Korea's development model, including high debt/equity ratios, massive foreign borrowing, and an undisciplined financial sector.

Taiwan

Population: 23,036,087
Background
        In 1895, military defeat forced China to cede Taiwan to Japan. Taiwan reverted to Chinese control after World War II. Following the Communist victory on the mainland in 1949, 2 million Nationalists fled to Taiwan and established a government using the 1946 constitution drawn up for all of China. Over the next five decades, the ruling authorities gradually democratized and incorporated the local population within the governing structure. In 2000, Taiwan underwent its first peaceful transfer of power from the Nationalist to the Democratic Progressive Party. Throughout this period, the island prospered and became one of East Asia's economic "Tigers." The dominant political issues continue to be the relationship between Taiwan and China - specifically the question of eventual unification - as well as domestic political and economic reform.

Economy - Overview
    Taiwan has a dynamic capitalist economy with gradually decreasing guidance of investment and foreign trade by  overnment authorities. In keeping with this trend, some large, government-owned banks and industrial firms are being privatized. Exports have provided the primary impetus for industrialization. The island runs a trade surplus, and foreign reserves are the world's third largest. 
    Despite restrictions cross-strait links, China has overtaken the US to become Taiwan's largest export market and, in 2006, its second-largest source of imports after Japan. China is also the island's number one destination for foreign direct investment. Strong trade performance in 2006 pushed Taiwan's GDP growth rate above 4%, and unemployment is below 4%. Consumer spending recovered following a slowdown early in 2006, when banks tightened lending to address a sharp increase in delinquent consumer debt.

Thailand

Population: 64,631,595
Background
    A unified Thai kingdom was established in the mid-14th century. Known as Siam until 1939, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country never to have been taken over by a European power. A bloodless revolution in 1932 led to a constitutional monarchy. In alliance with Japan during World War II, Thailand became a US ally following the conflict. Thailand is currently facing separatist violence in its southern ethnic Malay-Muslim provinces.

 

Economy - Overview

  With a well-developed infrastructure, a free-enterprise economy, and pro-investment policies, Thailand appears to have fully recovered from the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis. The country was one of East Asia's best performers in 2002-04. Boosted by increased consumption and strong export growth, the Thai economy grew 6.9% in 2003 and 6.1% in 2004 despite a sluggish global economy. Bangkok has pursued preferential trade agreements with a variety of partners in an effort to boost exports and to maintain high growth. In late December 2004, a major tsunami took 8,500 lives in Thailand and caused massive destruction of property in the southern provinces of Krabi, Phangnga, and Phuket. In 2006, investment stagnated as investors, spooked by the Thaksin administration's political problems, stayed on the sidelines.

Vietnam